FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2006-468|
|Borough of Woodmont,|
|Respondent||May 9, 2007|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 27, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of §1-200(1)(A), G.S.
2. By letter dated September 12, 2006 and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”) on September 13, 2006, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated §1-226(a) and (b), G.S., by denying the complainant his right to videotape the respondent’s annual meeting on August 31, 2006.
3. On November 8, 2006, the Commission issued a Notice of Hearing and Order to Show Cause for a hearing to be held on December 11, 2006. Based upon the complainant’s request for a continuance, “[i]n light of an eminent [sic] settlement agreement being drawn up”, the hearing officer granted a continuance. Subsequently, by letters dated January 21, 2007 and March 4, 2007, the complainant requested that Richard Austin, the Warden of the Borough of Woodmont, and the Milford Police Department be substituted as respondents in this case, and that civil penalties be imposed on the substituted respondents. However, the terms of §1-226(b), G.S., address the right of the public agency to adopt rules governing recording. Based on this right in the public agency and the authority to designate parties vested in the Commission by the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies §1-21j-30, the hearing officer denied the complainant’s motion to modify the named parties on March 12, 2007.
4. Section 1-226(a) and (b), G.S., state:
(a) At any meeting of a public agency which is open to the public, pursuant to the provisions of section 1-225, proceedings of such public agency may be recorded, photographed, broadcast or recorded for broadcast, subject to such rules as such public agency may have prescribed prior to such meeting, by any person or by any newspaper, radio broadcasting company or television broadcasting company. Any recording, radio, television or photographic equipment may be so located within the meeting room as to permit the recording, broadcasting either by radio, or by television, or by both, or the photographing of the proceedings of such public agency. The photographer or broadcaster and its personnel, or the person recording the proceedings, shall be required to handle the photographing, broadcast or recording as inconspicuously as possible and in such manner as not to disturb the proceedings of the public agency. As used herein the term television shall include the transmission of visual and audible signals by cable.
(b) Any such public agency may adopt rules governing such recording, photography or the use of such broadcasting equipment for radio and television stations but, in the absence of the adoption of such rules and regulations by such public agency prior to the meeting, such recording, photography or the use of such radio and television equipment shall be permitted as provided in subsection (a) of this section. (emphasis added)
5. It is found that, prior to the respondent’s annual meeting on August 31, 2006, it had not, pursuant to §1-226(b), G.S., adopted any rules governing the right to record meetings set forth in §1-226(a), G.S.
6. It is found that, immediately prior to the commencement of the respondent’s annual meeting at about 8 pm on August 31, 2006, the complainant went to the back of the meeting room at 31 Clinton Street, Milford, and set up a video camera on a tripod.
7. It is found that, very shortly after the complainant set up his video camera, the Warden of the respondent approached the camera, and twisted the camera lens in the direction away from the meeting proceedings, causing the camera and tripod to fall over onto the ground.
8. It is found that the Warden of the respondent, acting on its behalf, also called the Milford Police Department, who dispatched an officer to the scene. The police officer ordered the complainant to turn his camera off, but said the complainant could stay at the meeting if he did not record a videotape of the meeting.
9. It is further found that the Warden of the respondent was not aware on August 31, 2006 of the legal requirements of §1-226(a), G.S. At the March 27, 2007 Commission hearing, the Warden of the respondent freely admitted to a “mistake” and stipulated to a violation of §1-226(a), G.S. Moreover, the Warden stated on the record that he would see that the respondent complied with the requirements of §1-226(a), G.S., in the future.
10. It is finally found that the respondent was the operative decision-making authority at its August 31, 2006 meeting, and that the Milford Police Department simply enforced the decision of the respondent. The respondent originated and directed the denial of the right to record the meeting.
11. It is concluded that, because no rules governing the right to record meetings had been adopted prior to the respondent’s meeting on August 31, 2006, such recording should have been permitted, as required by §1-226(b), G.S., as provided in §1-226(a), G.S.
12. It is concluded that the complainant did perform the “recording as inconspicuously as possible and in such manner as not to disturb the proceedings of the public agency”, as required by §1-226(a), G.S.
13. It is concluded that the respondent violated the requirements of §1-226(a) and (b), G.S., when it denied the respondent the right to record its August 31, 2006 meeting.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth, the respondent shall allow recording of all of its meetings pursuant to the requirements of §1-226(a) and (b), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 9, 2007.
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Borough of Woodmont
c/o Gerald T. Weiner, Esq.
PO Box 9177
350 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06601-9177
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission